Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges
And as they spake unto the people, the priests, and the captain of the temple, and the Sadducees, came upon them,Acts 4:1-12. First arrest of the Apostles. Their hearing and Defence
1. And as they spake unto the people] The movements of the Apostles had by this time become an object of concern to the authorities in Jerusalem. See their complaint (Acts 5:28). There is no note of time at the beginning of chap. 3 to indicate what period had elapsed since Pentecost before the lame man was healed. But news soon spread in the city as we can learn from the events related in the previous chapter.
the priests] Those whose duty it was at the time to take charge of the Temple services, and who probably had taken offence at the multitudes assembled in the Temple court. The division of the priests was into twenty-four courses, each of which was to serve in the Temple for a week, see 1 Chronicles 24:1-19; 2 Chronicles 23:8. It was during such service in the order of his course, that the promise of the birth of John the Baptist was made to Zechariah the priest (Luke 1:5-8). Some authorities read high priests.
and the captain of the temple] There is mentioned in the O. T. an officer whose title is “the ruler of the house of God” (1 Chronicles 9:11; 2 Chronicles 31:13; Nehemiah 11:11). He was not a military officer, but had charge of the guard of priests and Levites who watched the Temple at night. There are two titles given to such an officer in the later writings of the Jews, (1) the Memunneh (Mishna Tamid i.), a kind of prefect of the Temple guard, and (2) a higher officer called “the captain of the mountain of the [Lord’s] house.” (Mishna Middoth ii.) Rabbenu Shimshon describes this second officer as “the Commander who was set over every watch of those that watched in the less sacred portion of the Temple.” He was apparently a civil as well as religious official, for we find (Acts 5:26) that he goes with “the officers” to make the second arrest of the Apostles.
and the Sadducees] This was the name of one of the most influential sects among the Jews in our Lord’s time. Their name has been variously explained. The Jewish authorities state that the name, which they write Tsedukim, is derived from Tsadok (Zadok) the proper name, and that thus they are “the followers of Zadok.” The Zadok from whom they derive the title is said to have been a disciple of Antigonus of Socho. This Antigonus is the second in order of the Jewish Fathers whose sayings are recorded in the Pirke Aboth, and the commentators thereon mention two of his pupils, Zadok and Baithos, to the latter of whom, and to his followers, they attribute the teaching that “there was nothing for them in the world to come.” But it is perhaps more probable, from their constant connection with the priests, that the name of the Sadducees was derived from the more famous Zadok who became high priest in the reign of King Solomon (1 Kings 2:35). We read of the distinction of his descendants as “the sons of Zadok” and “the priests the Levites of the seed of Zadok” even as late as the description of Ezekiel’s Temple (Ezekiel 40:46; Ezekiel 44:15). The probability of this priestly descent of the sect of the Sadducees is strengthened by the way in which they are mentioned Acts 5:17, “Then rose up the high priest and all they that were with him (which is the sect of the Sadducees).” The derivation which makes their name the plural of the Hebrew adjective Tsaddik = righteous, has not much authority to support it.
The teaching of the Sadducees is partly described Acts 23:8. They “say that there is no resurrection neither angel nor spirit.” In addition to this they attached no authority to the Oral Law, while the Pharisees maintained that the greater portion thereof had been transmitted to them from Moses. The Sadducees also taught the doctrine of the freedom of the will of men. The statement that they rejected all the Old Testament Scriptures except the Pentateuch has no confirmation in Josephus and has arisen from a confusion of the Sadducees with the Samaritans. Josephus (Antiq. xviii. 1. 4) says “their doctrine is accepted only by a few, but yet by those of the greatest dignity,” a statement fully borne out by the influential position in which we find them when the history of the Acts opens. They play no very prominent part in the Gospel history, because the teaching of Christ while on earth was directed more specially against the formalism and outward show of religion that prevailed among the Pharisees. It is only when the doctrine of the resurrection begins to be preached that the hostility of the Sadducees makes itself apparent.
came upon them] to arrest them. The same word is used as of the action of the chief captain (Acts 23:27), “Then came I (upon them) with an army and rescued him.” See note there.
Being grieved that they taught the people, and preached through Jesus the resurrection from the dead.2. being grieved] Better, being troubled. The word signifies thoroughly pained. It is used (Acts 16:18) of St Paul’s feeling when the “damsel possessed with a spirit of divination” cried after him at Philippi.
that they taught the people] One objection which the scribes and priests would feel towards the Apostles would be that they were “unlearned and ignorant men” (Acts 4:13), and so not deemed fit to teach.
and preached through Jesus the resurrection from the dead] Better, and published in Jesus. This would rouse the feelings of the Sadducees. The resurrection is said to be in Jesus, because His resurrection was a pledge that all should rise. “In Christ all shall be made alive” (1 Corinthians 15:22). The language of the Apostles in the Acts does not dwell on this as a consequence of the resurrection of Jesus, for like all Jewish teaching, what they said was historical rather than doctrinal.
And they laid hands on them, and put them in hold unto the next day: for it was now eventide.3. and put them in hold] i.e. in prison. The word means ward, safe keeping. And it is worth noticing on the use of it, that the Jews only employed imprisonment for this precautionary purpose. It was not a mode of punishment with them, and where we find mention of it so used in the Scripture records, the authorities who inflicted it were not Jewish.
unto the next day: for it was now eventide] The Jews were not allowed to give judgment in the night, and their day ceased with the twelfth hour. It was already about the ninth hour when Peter and John were going up to the Temple (Acts 3:1), so that before the address of Peter and the arrest of him and John was completed it would be too late to enter on a judicial enquiry. The Rabbis founded the prohibition on Jeremiah 21:12, “O house of David, thus saith the Lord, Execute judgment in the morning.” In Mishna Sanhedrin iv. 1 it is said: “Judgments about money may be commenced in the day and concluded in the night, but judgments about life must be begun in the day and concluded in the day.” And even the rule about the declaration of the new moon, which was looked on as a judicial proceeding, is similarly regulated (Mishna Rosh ha-Shanah iii. 1), and it may not be declared unless the examination of the witnesses, and all other preliminaries enjoined before its proclamation, be completed before dark.
Howbeit many of them which heard the word believed; and the number of the men was about five thousand.4. Howbeit] Better, But, i.e. not being deterred by the arrest of the Apostles.
many of them which heard the word believed] on Jesus; for Peter had set Him before them as that Prophet concerning whom Moses had spoken.
and the number of the men was] [better, came to] about five thousand] That is, the society had been increased by nearly two thousand converts since the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:41).
And it came to pass on the morrow, that their rulers, and elders, and scribes,5. And it came to pass on the morrow] When the investigation was permitted to be held.
that their rulers, and elders] Here we see that the party of the Sadducees was the party of power and influence at this time.
and scribes] For these were not only the copyists, but the interpreters and expounders of the Law to the people, and any new teaching would naturally be disliked by them. On the difference between Christ’s teaching and that of the scribes see Matthew 7:29.
And Annas the high priest, and Caiaphas, and John, and Alexander, and as many as were of the kindred of the high priest, were gathered together at Jerusalem.6. and Annas the high priest] was there. The verb is understood. Annas (called Ananus in Josephus), son of one Seth, was made high-priest (a.d. 7) by the Roman governor Quirinus [Cyrenius], and so continued till a.d. 14 (Joseph. Antiq. xviii. 2. 1). We do not find that he was ever again appointed to the office, though St Luke here calls him high-priest. But the way in which he is mentioned at the time of the trial of Christ, who was brought, as we read, before Annas first (John 18:13), and sent by him afterwards bound unto Caiaphas, shews that, though not actual high-priest, yet his position in the eyes of the people of Jerusalem was one which justified them in bringing Jesus to him as soon as he was seized. It is difficult to explain from the words of the New Test, the relation of these two men in their office. Caiaphas is expressly called high-priest by St John, yet we are not told why Christ was not at once brought to him. It may be that one was acting high-priest, while the other was nasi or president of the Sanhedrin. Moreover it is not improbable that Annas, having been high-priest before, and only deposed from the office by the Roman governor Gratus, would, both during the short high-priesthood of his son Eleazar (a.d. 16), and the longer high-priesthood of Caiaphas, his son-in-law (a.d. 25–37), exercise much influence by reason of his age and experience, and might, from his former tenure of the office, even be spoken of as high-priest. It is clear that he was at the head of one of the most influential Jewish families, for before his death, five of his sons had been high-priests (Joseph. Antiq. xx. 9. 1). We can see from Luke 3:2, where both Annas and Caiaphas are said to be high-priests, that there was some laxity in the common use of the title. So far only does the New Testament carry us, but when we come to examine the Old Testament, and the records of later Jewish literature, there seems every reason to conclude that the expressions which seem somewhat hard to reconcile are exactly those which would naturally be employed. We find that Moses, who is himself counted (Psalm 99:6) God’s priest on the same level with Aaron, anointed not Aaron only, but his sons at the same time (Exodus 40:12-15) to be high-priests. Also (Numbers 31:6) Phinehas the son of Eleazar is sent to the war against the Midianites with “the holy instruments” (Le. the Urim and Thummim), which shews that he was high-priest at the same time as Eleazar his father. Again in later times (2 Kings 25:18) we have mention made of “Seraiah the chief priest and Zephaniah the second priest,” which the Targum explain as “high-priest and Sagan” or deputy high-priest. The Talmud makes it very clear that there was a special arrangement for providing on some occasions such a deputy for the high-priest. Thus (Mishna Joma i. 1) it says, “Seven days before the day of atonement they remove the high-priest from his house to the chamber of the assessors, and they provide another priest in his place lest any disqualification should befal him.” On this passage Rashi’s note is “to be high-priest instead of him.” and a little later on in the same treatise (T. B. Joma 39 a) it is said concerning the services of the day of atonement: “Rabbi Khanina the Sagan of the priests (and so one qualified to speak on the duties of the office) said: Why does the Sagan stand on the right hand of the high-priest (when the lots are being cast for the goats)?” The answer is, “So that if any disqualification should befal him, the Sagan may go in (to the Holy of Holies) and perform the service in his stead.” Cp. also Midrash Rabbah on Leviticus (par. 20 ad fin.). “If there was any defilement on Aaron, Eleazar served (as high-priest), and if there was any defilement on Eleazar, Ithamar served.” (On the slight matters which caused such ceremonial defilement, see note on Acts 10:28.) And in the same chapter we find “Had not Elisheba (Exodus 6:23, the wife of Aaron) joy in this world who saw five crowns (i.e. subjects for rejoicing) in one day? her brother-in-law (Moses) a king (Deuteronomy 33:5); her brother (Naashon) nasi, i.e. president, of the tribe of Judah; her husband high-priest; her two sons, sagans of the high-priest; and Phinehas her grandson anointed for the war.” These notices make it clear that from the earliest times down to a period posterior to the date of the Acts, there were occasions, and these not unfrequent, when two men were called high-priests at the same time.
That one who had been high-priest should still retain the title may be seen from the principle laid down in several places in the Talmud, (see Mishna Shekalim vi. 6, ed. princ. Jerus.), viz. that “you may elevate in a sacred office or service, but you cannot bring down,” as with us “once a Bishop, always a Bishop.” The illustration given is that you might lay the shewbread on a marble table first, and afterwards on a golden one, but the contrary order of proceeding was forbidden. (For another illustration, see note on Acts 6:3.) Therefore Annas, having been high-priest, could, according to Jewish usage, never be called by any lower title.
The relationship between Annas and Caiaphas and the seniority of the former is enough to explain the conduct of the crowd in bringing Jesus to him first: while the omission of the word high-priest (Acts 4:6) with the name of Caiaphas is no more a proof that he was not also known to be high-priest, as well as Annas, than the words of St Mark’s Gospel (Acts 16:7), “Go your way, tell his disciples and Peter,” can be made evidence that Peter was not one of the disciples. For a similar phrase cp. Acts 5:29 and the note there.
and Caiaphas] He was also called Joseph, and was son-in-law to Annas.
and John] This is the same name as Johanan, and Lightfoot concludes that this person was the famous Johanan ben Zaccai, who by his influence with Vespasian procured permission for many of the Jews to settle in Jamnia (Yavneh) after the destruction of their city, and himself became head of the synagogue there.
and Alexander] of whom nothing is known more than can be gathered from this mention of him.
and as many as were of the kindred of the high priest] And these would probably all be of the Sadducees’ party.
were gathered together at (MSS. in) Jerusalem] These words which A. V. places at the end of Acts 4:6 are in the Greek a part of Acts 4:5, and it is better to insert them there, because the MSS. of most authority make the names in Acts 4:6 all nominatives and subjects to a new verb. It may have been that some of the authorities were not residents in Jerusalem, but had to be summoned.
And when they had set them in the midst, they asked, By what power, or by what name, have ye done this?7. And when they had set them in the midst] The council or Sanhedrin was assembled as the Beth-din, in the house of judgment.
they asked, By what power, or by what name, &c.] For power, the original has the same word as is used so often of Christ’s miracles, and generally rendered mighty works. Name is = authority. The force of the expression is perhaps felt better, if the preposition ἐν be rendered literally in rather than by; certainly so in the second member of the sentence.
Then Peter, filled with the Holy Ghost, said unto them, Ye rulers of the people, and elders of Israel,8. Then Peter, filled with the Holy Ghost] The Spirit of God upon him had changed him “into another man.” Cf. 1 Samuel 10:6.
said unto them, Ye rulers of the people] For this was the highest judicial tribunal which the Jews had.
and elders of Israel] The best authorities omit of Israel. The council was composed of the chief priests, i.e. the heads of each of the twenty-four classes into which the priests were divided, the scribes, men who were skilled in all the Jewish law, and the elders, grave and learned men chosen to complete the number, which is stated to have been in all seventy-one.
If we this day be examined of the good deed done to the impotent man, by what means he is made whole;9. if we this day be examined of the good deed done to the impotent man] Both the nouns are without the article. Read “a good deed done to an impotent man.” Of = concerning, as we still use it in “to speak of.” St Peter’s words imply that perhaps there would be some other charge brought against them, for teachers of a new doctrine who had in a brief space gained five thousand followers must have attracted much notice in Jerusalem. Nor is it long before we hear (Acts 6:13) blasphemy “against the Temple and the law” laid to the charge of Stephen, whose preaching (for this accusation precedes Stephen’s defence) must have been of the same character as that of Peter and John.
by what means he is made whole] The Greek has this (man), the demonstrative pronoun, for the man was there in the council-house to be seen by all. See Acts 4:14.
Be it known unto you all, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom ye crucified, whom God raised from the dead, even by him doth this man stand here before you whole.10. by the name of Jesus] Read in the name, as before.
whom ye crucified] i.e. by the Roman soldiers. So (2 Samuel 12:9) David is said to have killed Uriah, though it is added “by the sword of the children of Ammon.”
even by him] The Greek seems rather to refer back to the former clause of the verse, and to be better rendered even in this (name).
This is the stone which was set at nought of you builders, which is become the head of the corner.11. This (i.e. Jesus) is the stone which was set at nought of you [the] builders] There is the definite article in the original. The council are fitly called the builders, for on them depended the whole religious and civil government of the people. St Peter, with his mind now enlightened to apply the Scriptures, uses the words of the Psalmist (Psalm 118:22) as spoken prophetically of Christ. Christ had already (Matthew 21:42) applied these words to Himself and to the way in which He was being rejected of the Jews, in the close of one of His parables which the Pharisees felt had been spoken against them.
which is become the head of the corner] Christ, now exalted into heaven, is no longer the despised, but has become the most important, stone in the new building of the Christian society, cp. Ephesians 2:20-22. St Peter uses this quotation in his Epistle (1 Peter 2:7), and joins with it a passage (Isaiah 28:16) where the like figure is employed prophetically of the Messiah, “the foundation stone laid in Zion.”
Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.12. Neither is there salvation in any other] Rather, And our salvation is not in any other. The article with the noun (ἡ σωτηρία) seems thus better expressed. St Peter thus intimates that the cure of the lame man is only a sign of the power of salvation for the soul which was in Jesus. The people were to draw from the effect produced by “Arise and walk,” the conclusion that the same power could as surely give the greater blessing, “thy sins be forgiven thee” (Matthew 9:5).
given among men] Communicated to men by God, as a means of salvation.
whereby we must be saved] Through whom we must of necessity seek our salvation if we would be saved.
Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were unlearned and ignorant men, they marvelled; and they took knowledge of them, that they had been with Jesus.13–22. The Apostles are dismissed unpunished
13. the boldness] The word implies freedom and readiness of speech such as would not be expected from the unlearned.
of Peter and John] Here we have evidence that not all the speeches which were made are reported by St Luke, for we have no record of any word spoken by John, yet his boldness of speech, no less than St Peter’s, is observed by the council. Christ’s speeches had produced a like effect (John 7:15).
ignorant men] The Greek signifies plebeian, as opposed to noble men. Render, common.
they took knowledge of them] These words have been interpreted as though they meant that the members of the Sanhedrin now for the first time discovered the relation in which the two Apostles stood to Jesus. Those who press such a rendering must overlook the force of the very same verb as used in Acts 3:10, “They knew that it was he which sat for alms.” The men of whom this is said had known the cripple for years, but now observed in addition that he was a cripple no longer, though still the same man whom they had so long seen begging. Just so with the Jewish authorities; they could hardly fail to have known the connection of the preachers with Jesus after the sermon on the day of Pentecost and the events which followed it, and now they further (ἐπὶ) notice that as the Master’s words had been powerful, so there was like power in the language of those who had been with Him. We are told (John 18:15) of one disciple, taken always to be St John himself, who was known to the high-priest before the Crucifixion.
And beholding the man which was healed standing with them, they could say nothing against it.14. It has been asked on this verse: Why the sight of the healed man so utterly confounded the judges that they had not a word to say. We may see from what happened afterwards that there were men in the council not without the thought that God was really working through the Apostles. Gamaliel says (Acts 5:39) “If this work be of God,” and if this feeling operated in him, the recognized head of the Jewish court, it is not unlikely that others were silent with the consideration that “haply they might be fighting against God.”
But when they had commanded them to go aside out of the council, they conferred among themselves,15. to go aside out of the council] To leave the council chamber, while the members of the council discussed what should be done.
Saying, What shall we do to these men? for that indeed a notable miracle hath been done by them is manifest to all them that dwell in Jerusalem; and we cannot deny it.16. manifest to all them that dwell in Jerusalem] Because all the inhabitants knew the beggar at the Temple-gate, and that he had been lame all his life. There could only be two grounds on which, in reference to the cure of the cripple, the Apostles could be worthy of punishment: (1) If it were a case of imposture, but this nobody in the council or anywhere else insinuated, or (2) if the miracle had been wrought by some unlawful agency (Deuteronomy 13). The question of the Sanhedrin points in this direction, “By what power have ye done this?” But Peter from the first (Acts 3:13) had ascribed the miracle to the “God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob,” and again testifies that it is God through Jesus Christ that hath made the man whole. So that there was no charge possible on the second ground.
But that it spread no further among the people, let us straitly threaten them, that they speak henceforth to no man in this name.17. But that it spread] i.e. the fame of the miracle and the consequent belief in the Divinity of Jesus.
let us straitly threaten them] The best MSS. omit the word here rendered straitly. The literal translation of the Received Text is “let us threaten them with a threat,” a Hebrew mode of expression often imitated in the N. T., but apparently not found here in the earliest copies.
in this name] The preposition here is ἐπὶ, not ἐν, as in Acts 4:7. The force of it is the same which it has in John 12:16, “they remembered that these things were written of him.” The Apostles were forbidden to preach about the name, i.e. the authority and Divinity, of Jesus.
And they called them, and commanded them not to speak at all nor teach in the name of Jesus.18. And they called them] back again into the council chamber.
and commanded them] The verb is frequently used of the injunctions which our Lord gave that His miraculous deeds should not be spread abroad (Mark 6:8; Luke 5:14, &c.). The pronoun them is not found in the best MSS.
But Peter and John answered and said unto them, Whether it be right in the sight of God to hearken unto you more than unto God, judge ye.19. Peter and John] Both alike express their determination to publish the news of Christ’s life and resurrection. The reason why both names are here mentioned may be that each was separately appealed to for a promise to desist. For an instance of like firmness in a good cause cp. 2Ma 7:30.
judge ye] Come to whatever decision you please. “We are not careful to answer you in this matter.”
For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard.20. the things which we have seen and heard] Better, which we saw and heard. For their testimony related to the whole life of Jesus.
So when they had further threatened them, they let them go, finding nothing how they might punish them, because of the people: for all men glorified God for that which was done.21. further threatened] This was all they could venture on, because the multitude knew that the lame man had been healed, and that there was no charge against the Apostles for which they deserved punishment. They could not say that the miracle was untrue, for there was the man standing by, and proving its reality; and they could not inflict a punishment “for a good deed,” nor could they find any ground for a charge in the declaration that the man had been healed in the name of Jesus.
how they might punish] = on what pretext, or, in what way, without enraging the populace.
all men glorified God] St Peter’s speech had made it clear whence the power to heal was given. See Acts 3:13.
For the man was above forty years old, on whom this miracle of healing was shewed.22. the man was above forty years old] To one who looked on the circumstances with a physician’s eye, as St Luke would (Colossians 4:14), this feature would be most noticeable. For limbs unused shrink and wither, and become disproportionate to the other parts of the frame. The physician’s description is also evident in the two unique words (βάσεις and σφυρά) which are used (Acts 3:7) to describe the cure of the cripple.
on whom this miracle of healing was shewed] The word here used for miracle = sign. This the A.V. has endeavoured to represent by the use of the verb shewed. Lit., “on whom this sign of healing was wrought.”
And being let go, they went to their own company, and reported all that the chief priests and elders had said unto them.23–31. The Apostles released. Their Prayer and its Answer
23. to their own company] Perhaps still abiding in the upper room which they had occupied before Pentecost. Because St Peter on a later occasion (Acts 12:12) made his way, after his deliverance from prison, to the house of Mary the mother of John Mark where many were gathered together praying, some have thought that this was the house where the Apostles had dwelt from the first. Such men at such a time would have neither means (see Acts 3:6) nor inclination to change from house to house. And Christ’s injunction (Luke 10:7), “Go not from house to house,” was given with a purpose which the Apostles would be likely to bear in mind and act upon.
And when they heard that, they lifted up their voice to God with one accord, and said, Lord, thou art God, which hast made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and all that in them is:24. And when they heard that (better it)] The Greek = and having heard.
they lift up their voice to God with one accord, and said] The words of the prayer which follows have so direct a reference to the circumstances which had just occurred that we cannot interpret otherwise than that to the prayer, uttered by the lips of one, all the rest, with one mind, pronounced fervent Amens. “The author (says Zeller) takes no forbidden liberty when he collects the concordant expressions of individuals into one common expression.”
Lord] Lit. Master. The word is not often used of God (Luke 2:29) or Christ, but it is worth notice that St Peter (2 Peter 2:1) and St Jude (4) apply it to Jesus.
thou art God] The words art God are not in the oldest MSS. but the clause reads, O Lord, thou that hast made, &c.
Who by the mouth of thy servant David hast said, Why did the heathen rage, and the people imagine vain things?25. In the first part of this verse there is some confusion in the Greek text. The most authoritative reading may be translated who by the Holy Ghost [through] the mouth of our father David thy servant hast said. From the Rec. Text there has been omitted “the Holy Ghost,” and perhaps the preposition by was repeated before “the mouth.” But the order in which the Greek words stand makes it difficult to see what has happened, for even in the best MSS. their arrangement is much involved.
The Apostle now proceeds to apply the words of the second Psalm, which has been admitted by the Jews themselves to be Messianic, to the circumstances under which Christ was put to death.
Why did the heathen rage] Better, the nations, or the Gentiles, as it is rendered Acts 4:27.
The Psalm in its first application probably referred to some revolt against the king of Israel. We have such a revolt mentioned in David’s reign (2 Samuel 8), where the Syrians, Moabites, Ammonites and other nations were conquered by David, after being in vain rebellion.
The words of the Psalm are quoted from the Septuagint.
The kings of the earth stood up, and the rulers were gathered together against the Lord, and against his Christ.
For of a truth against thy holy child Jesus, whom thou hast anointed, both Herod, and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles, and the people of Israel, were gathered together,27. For of a truth] Here the best MSS. insert the words in this city. The Apostle proceeds here to apply the language of the Psalmist to the events preceding the Crucifixion. The insertion of in this city is very natural under such circumstances.
against thy holy child Jesus] Read here, Servant Jesus, as Acts 3:13, for the original is the same though differently translated in the A.V.
whom thou hast anointed] By the descent of the Holy Ghost at His Baptism. (Matthew 3:16.)
both Herod] The representative of the rulers of the Jews. This Herod was Antipas the son of Herod the Great by his Samaritan wife Malthace. He was tetrarch of Galilee and Perea (Luke 3:19), and because our Lord belonged to Galilee Pilate took occasion to send Jesus to be examined by him, as Herod was in Jerusalem to keep the feast of the Passover.
and Pontius Pilate] who was the Roman Governor, and so in his person were represented many nations at this time under the sway of Rome. His officials and soldiers would be drawn from all lands, and the mockery to which Jesus was exposed at their hands might well be described as the rage of the Gentiles.
Pontius Pilate] was the sixth Roman procurator of Judæa; he was appointed a.d. 25–6 in the twelfth year of Tiberius, and he continued to hold the office till a.d. 36, when he was sent to Rome by Vitellius under an accusation brought against him by the Samaritans. Of his after life and his death there are many legends, but no history.
For to do whatsoever thy hand and thy counsel determined before to be done.28. for to do, &c.] God made the passions, which the enemies of Jesus indulged, to be the instruments for working out His will. So men when they suppose they are choosing their own way, have the ends thereof shapen by God “rough-hew them how they will.” Their misdeeds are made to execute the will of God, yet they are not on that account exempt from blame.
And now, Lord, behold their threatenings: and grant unto thy servants, that with all boldness they may speak thy word,29. behold their threatenings] The Apostles are not disheartened, they are only drawing near to God for aid lest they should be in danger of becoming so.
with all boldness] The same freedom of speech which (Acts 4:13) had been afforded to them when they were before the council. Cp. Christ’s promise that this should be so. (Luke 21:15.)
By stretching forth thine hand to heal; and that signs and wonders may be done by the name of thy holy child Jesus.30. by stretching forth, &c.] Lit. while thou stretchest forth. Thus the mighty works were to be a sign and testimony to the words which the Apostles spake. For as had been said of their Master, none could do the works which they did except God were with him. (John 3:2.)
by the name of thy holy child Jesus] Here we have the same word as in Acts 4:27. Read “thy holy Servant Jesus.”
And when they had prayed, the place was shaken where they were assembled together; and they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and they spake the word of God with boldness.31. the place was shaken] That they might feel at once that the God of all nature, to whom they had appealed (Acts 4:24), was among them. In their immediate need an immediate answer is vouchsafed, and a token with it that their prayer was heard. Cp. Acts 16:26 of the shaking of the prison at Philippi after the prayers of Paul and Silas.
spake the word of God] i.e. wherever they found occasion and opportunity, neglecting the threats of the council, and endowed with the boldness for which they had prayed.
And the multitude of them that believed were of one heart and of one soul: neither said any of them that ought of the things which he possessed was his own; but they had all things common.32–37. Unanimity and Love among the first Christians
32. of one heart and of one soul] A Hebrew form of expressing complete accord. Thus (1 Chronicles 12:38) “all the rest of Israel were of one heart to make David king,” and (Jeremiah 32:39) “I will give them one heart and one way.”
neither said any of them that ought of the things which he possessed was his own] It is more emphatic in the Greek, and not one of them said, &c. Each felt that he held his possessions only as a trust, and if occasion called for it, they were to be given up. Such love towards one another, Christ had foretold, should be a mark of His disciples (John 13:35). All those who have sketched a perfect society, as Plato in his Republic, and Sir Thos. More in his Utopia, have placed among their regulations this kind of community of goods which was established by the first Christians. In theory it is the perfection of a commonwealth, but there is need of perfection in the citizens before it can be realized. There can be no question that an expectation of Christ’s immediate return from heaven, acting along with the unity of thoughts and feeling, made these men willing to part with their possessions and goods, there being, as we shall see from the case of Ananias, no constraint upon them to do so.
And with great power gave the apostles witness of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus: and great grace was upon them all.33. And with great power gave the apostles witness] [Better, their witness.] The Greek verb implies a great deal more than our English gave. It is the word so constantly used for paying a debt (Matthew 18:25; Luke 7:42), or rendering an account (Matthew 12:36; Hebrews 13:17). So that there is implied in it the sense of obligation under which the Apostles felt themselves to lie of declaring “the things which they saw and heard” (Acts 4:20).
and great grace was upon them all] i.e. like their Master, while experiencing the favour of God, they were also finding favour with men. Cp. Acts 5:13.
Neither was there any among them that lacked: for as many as were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the prices of the things that were sold,34. Neither was there any among them that lacked] The A. V. omits the word for, which is represented in the Greek and is needed for the sense. “For neither was there, &c.” This was one reason for their favour among men. All could see and admire the spirit of self-sacrifice which was exhibited by what they were doing.
brought the prices of the things that were sold] The language here expressly avoids saying that these men sold all they had. They sold some things, and the sum realized by what was sold was offered to the common store. We never hear that a similar fund was raised in any place except Jerusalem.
And laid them down at the apostles' feet: and distribution was made unto every man according as he had need.35. and laid them down at the apostles’ feet] A significant act, whereby it was shewn that they gave the Apostles entire control over the bestowal of these sums. For the figure, cp. Psalm 8:6, and Cicero Proverbs Flacco (xxvii. § 68), ante pedes praetoris in foro expensum est auri pondo centum paullo minus.
and distribution was made unto every man according as he had need] Better, unto each according as any had need. There were no doubt many who were not in need, and they of course lived on their own. The distribution was intended only for the needy, as widows, &c., and for those who could not otherwise support themselves while they took part, as many did, in the active propagation of the new faith. It may be, too, that some were deprived of the means of support because they had become Christians. Cp. the threat of the authorities, John 9:22.
And Joses, who by the apostles was surnamed Barnabas, (which is, being interpreted, The son of consolation,) a Levite, and of the country of Cyprus,36. And Joses] The same name as Joseph, which form the oldest MSS. give.
who by the apostles was surnamed Barnabas] He was the companion of St Paul in his first missionary journey (Acts 13:2), and is often mentioned by St Luke. He was invited by St Paul to join him on his second journey, but as they disagreed about taking John Mark with them, they did not labour again, as far as we know, in the same field, and the writer leaves Barnabas (Acts 15:39) with the mention that “he took Mark and sailed to Cyprus.”
which is, being interpreted] The explanation is added for the sake of Theophilus, who may have had no knowledge of the Hebrew (see Acts 1:19).
Song of Solomon of consolation] More probably, Song of Solomon of exhortation. The Greek may be thus rendered, and the Hebrew noun nebuah is from the same root as the common word for prophet. The title may have been given to Barnabas from his ability as a preacher (Acts 11:23), though in this he seems (Acts 14:12) to have been less prominent than St Paul, as most men must have been. In describing the work of Barnabas in Acts 11:23 the verb used, “he exhorted,” is that from which the noun in this verse is derived, and is akin to the word “Paraclete,” which is so often translated “Comforter” when applied to the Holy Ghost, but rendered “advocate” in 1 John 2:1 when used of the intercession of Jesus.
a Levite] The Levites in the Holy Land had no inheritance given to them, but were scattered through all the tribes; the same regulation may not, however, have applied to the Levites in other countries; and we are not informed where the field was situated which Barnabas sold. He may also have been a married man, and have held lands from his marriage.
of the country of Cyprus] The island still so called in the eastern part of the Mediterranean Sea. We find Jews settled there in the Maccabean times (1Ma 15:23). It was one of the places to which Paul and Barnabas went in their missionary journey, and it had been previously visited by some of the Christian teachers who were driven from Jerusalem by the persecution which succeeded the death of Stephen (Acts 11:19).
Having land, sold it, and brought the money, and laid it at the apostles' feet.37. having land] Lit. a field. It seems likely that Joses is chosen as an example of the primitive liberality of the Christian body, because there was something remarkable in the kind of gift or the nature of the sacrifice which he made.